On top-rated television shows, attorneys for the Special Victims Unit see new clients every episode and can hardly wait to chase the next sensational case to splash across the media.
In reality, however, at least for Erica M. Kallin of Caldwell, this kind of work isn’t about the headlines – it’s about the heart.
“At the end of the day, I get to stand up in court and defend those most vulnerable in our community,” Kallin says. “Knowing you’ve made such an impact – it’s extremely rewarding.”
For the most part, those vulnerable victims she’s talking about are children. As the deputy prosecuting attorney and Special Victims Unit chief, Kallin prosecutes child abuse and adult assault cases as well as homicide cases. Experience alone has made her something of an expert in the field: of the 60-plus jury trials she’s tried, more than half have involved child or sexual abuse.
Growing up, Kallin moved hither and yon with her family and ended up in Montana, where she attended law school at the University of Montana in Missoula. She knew in high school that she wanted to be a lawyer, but until this job came up, she figured she’d work in private practice and – fingers crossed – “make a bunch of money!” Instead, after passing the bar, she moved to Idaho at the same time her parents did and found a home and job in Caldwell.
“ … this is my calling in life. I fell in love with what I do.”
Today, Kallin doesn’t just show up to work and take on her next assignment. She does something more: essentially, she tries to put herself out of a job.
In 2014, Kallin organized the annual Canyon County Child Abuse Prevention Days, which includes a special press conference as well as a “superhero walk” where kids can dress like their favorite superheroes. She also founded the Canyon County’s Child Fatality Review Board, which, in conjunction with Nampa and Caldwell police and firefighters, the Canyon County sheriff and others, makes sure that no child death goes overlooked. Additionally, after seeing an alarming number of child irrigation canal deaths and also babies being accidentally suffocated, Kallin worked with community members and hospital administrations to increase awareness for those tragic situations.
“(My job) isn’t just about prosecuting a case, it’s about creating awareness so it doesn’t happen again,” she says. “We’re trying to prevent deaths not just because we’re prosecutors; it’s an obligation we have as human beings.”
Kallin also finds satisfaction in mentoring other attorneys in her office, particularly women, and she’s even had chances to mentor some of the young victims she’s represented. Working with children is made all the more tender for Kallin, as she’s also mom to two boys, ages 8 and 6. She devotes most of her non-working time to them, and they get to call her coach, too. She’s currently the only female head football coach of nearly 100 in the Meridian Police Activities League.
Though it wasn’t where she thought she’d end up, Kallin speaks of one case in particular that she says impacts her deeply still. Working on a shaken baby case, she met the little girl who miraculously survived and could no longer talk, but who would smile and giggle every time the theme song for the show “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” came on. Helping that little girl, Kallin says, is something that will stay with her for the rest of her life.
“Public sector is not what I thought I’d do,” Kallin says, “but this is my calling in life. I fell in love with what I do.”